STANLEY, Falkland Islands (AP) — Falkland Islanders are celebrating their referendum showing that 99.8 percent want the area to remain a British Overseas Territory.
Legislative Assembly Member Gavin Short said Tuesday that he hopes it sends a message to Argentine President Cristina Fernandez: "We have absolutely no desire to be ruled by the government in Buenos Aires. I hope that you now might respect that."
Not likely: Argentina's ambassador to London, Alicia Castro, said Tuesday that the vote was organized by and for the British just to claim the islands for Britain. And she said the wishes of a few hundred islanders are no match for "millions and millions and millions" of people who recognize Argentine sovereignty over the islands they claim as the Malvinas.
Castro spoke in a radio interview in Buenos Aires while the Falkland lawmakers spoke in Stanley.
In Washington, the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama signaled that the vote would not change U.S. policy, which is to remain neutral in the territorial dispute between Buenos Aires and London.
"The residents have clearly expressed their preference for a continued relationship with the United Kingdom," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said. "That said, we obviously recognize there are competing claims. Our formal position has not changed. We recognize the de facto U.K. administration of the islands, but we take no position on sovereignty claims."
Nuland added that it is important for Britain and Argentina to constructively seek a resolution to their dispute.
Argentina has been insisting on such talks for years, and Britain has said it is willing, but only if the islanders have a seat at the table. And that's a deal-breaker for the Fernandez government.
"It's not that we don't understand the islanders in their desire to ratify their identity: They're British and British law recognizes them as such. Argentina has no intention of changing their identity or their way of life, but the territory they inhabit isn't theirs. There is a right they do not have, which is to decide the destiny of our territory, or resolve this question of sovereignty," Castro told Radio Millenium.
Associated Press Writers Bradley Klapper in Washington and Michael Warren in Buenos Aires contributed to this story.